West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Friday the list of 291 candidates of the Trinamool Congress for the upcoming assembly elections, making official her decision to contest the high-profile Nandigram seat that shot to limelight following violence linked to an agitation against land acquisition by the then Left government in 2007.
She also said she would not contest her traditional seat in south Kolkata’s Bhabanipur, which will go to “my friend and colleague Sovandeb Chattopadhyay”. Banerjee has held that seat since 2011, the year her party brought an end to a 34-year Left rule, propelled primarily by land agitations in Hooghly’s Singur and East Midnapore’s Nandigram.
“When I make a promise, I keep it,” she said of her decision to fight from Nandigram, a seat her aide-turned-rival Suvendu Adhikari won in 2016. Incidentally, her first announcement had come at a rally in Nandigram in January. There are speculations that Adhikari, who has joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and turned into a fierce critic of Banerjee, might take her on from what is considered his bastion.
“In reality, it’s me who is contesting from all the seats and it does not matter who the candidates are,” Banerjee told the press at her official residence.
She said she will be in Nandigram on March 9 and file her nomination from Haldia the next day. “After that, I will be busy with a series of political rallies. This election is very crucial for the Trinamool…,” she added.
Banerjee also announced dropping over 25 sitting legislators (some of them ministers, including finance minister Amit Mitra) due to various reasons, including health or age-related issues in view of the pandemic situation. She announced that the Trinamool’s “friends” will fight three seats (Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong) in the hills.
West Bengal has 294 assembly seats and elections there will take place in eight phases between March 27 and April 29.
“There are many, including Purnendu Bose, Amit Mitra, Manish Gupta, Rabindranath Bhattacharya and Sonali Guha, who could not be accommodated due to various reasons, including age factor and Covid-19 co-morbidity issues. No one above the age of 80 is going to be contesting on behalf of the Trinamool. I would like to tell them not to get disappointed as we will bring them back through ‘Bidhan Parishad’. Those who did not get a ticket will be nominated from there,” she said.
Of the Trinamool candidates, 50 are women, 42 from the minorities, 79 from the Scheduled Castes and 17 from the Scheduled Tribes. Banerjee said focus had also been given to youth power, with 27-28 seats given to youngsters.
“We are residents of Bengal and we understand its culture, history and legacy…. I have full faith in my people who understand that bringing in the BJP (to power) would spell doom for our state,” she said.
Banerjee also targeted the Left Front-Congress-Indian Secular Front (ISF) alliance, accusing it of having a secret understanding with the BJP. “Their aim is to ensure BJP’s win so that they can form the government in Bengal,” she said.
“Game on,” Banerjee said in Bengali. “Khelenge…ladenge…jitenge (we will play, we will contest and we will win),” she added, stressing that her party will emerge victorious on May 2, the result day.
She also expressed gratitude to Atul Roy of the Kamtapur Progressive Party, and Banshi Badan Barman, an influential Rajbanshi leader for extending their support to the Trinamool.